Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Early Cherries Just Starting at the Capitol, Maybe the New Normal

In the past day or two the very first Cherry blossoms at the Capitol have opened. There not be enough heat for them all to open in a glorious rush, but they are starting, a little like the first popcorn, one at a time, then a handful.

This might be a Plum, not Cherry
 but it's at about the same stage
as the Cherry trees on the Capitol Mall now
(mid-February elsewhere this year)
Last year they didn't start until later in the month, and at this time in early March, the buds were small and pretty tight. This seemed late, but it was more in line with historical norms.

This year is early again, but that early is maybe the new normal. On the sixth or seventh of March in 2015 the paper published one of their best stories ever:
According to 88-year-old Wilbur Bluhm, the cherry blossom trees in front of the State Capitol building are blooming about two weeks earlier than they normally do.

Each week Bluhm takes a stroll through Bush Park, the Willamette University campus, Chemeketa Community College campus, Deepwood Estates and a couple of other parks to collect plant, flower and tree data.

The retired horticulturist of 30 years records a variety of information including when trees are leafing, flowering, done flowering, bearing fruit, showing fall colors, and when they lose their leave among other things.

Bluhm has been collecting this the data each week for the past 56 years and says that this spring season is the third earliest date that the cherry blossoms have been blooming outside of the capitol.

"On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around March 15," Bluhm said. "But this year they started on March 1."

According to Bluhm, the flowers on the cherry blossom trees are usually in bloom for about a month, usually ending around April 19.

"This warm weather has definitely accelerated spring as far as the trees go," Bluhm said.
On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around March 15.

Also one single Camas
was up at Bush Park!
Based on the handful that were open yesterday, the 3rd, the first one must have been on the second or maybe even March 1st. So that would put them this year in 2020 close to the timeline of that very warm 2015. These early starts to flowerings are frequent enough now that it's about time not to consider them "early" any more.

Elsewhere, I have seen earlier varieties that started blooming mid-February (like in the photo), and one is now about half blown. In a few days it will be done. Other varieties are in full splendor right now. It seems all so early to see them in full splendor or nearly done at the very start of March.

A detailed record like those of Bluhm's would be a fine way for people at the Capitol to document climate change. It won't persuade the intransigent denier, but it would make for a vivid and immediate body of evidence about warming and change.

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